Ephestia cautella, Tropical Warehouse Moth – The Fig moth

(Lepidoptera: Pyralidae)

Synonym: Cadra cautella.

Host: This pest attacks a variety of stored products that include rice, wheat, maize, beans, cotton seeds and cotton cake, flour, bran, oat meal and maize-meal, dry fruits such as fig, almond, raisins, dates, pears, ground nuts, walnuts etc. and confectionary items like biscuits and chocolates.

Damage: Caterpillars produce a lot of webbed galleries and join the grains together and also contaminate food items with faecal matter. Webbing of grains produces lumps as in the case of Corcyra. In heavy infestation the surface of the entire stock can be covered by silken webs left behind by the wandering larvae.

Life cycle: Adults are dull greyish-brown moths with faint markings on fore wings, 13-15 mm long. Fore wings are broader towards the apex. Two faint dark oblique lines bordered with a whitish suffusion lay across the fore wings. Hind wings dull whitish bordered with tinge of grey. Adults avoid strong light and rest in dark places with wings folded over the abdomen. They fly actively in the mornings and evenings to lay eggs within 3-4 days after emergence.

Fecundity in 250-300 eggs per female. Eggs are laid anywhere on the grains or on any surface near the grains. Incubation period is 3-4 days only. Full grown larva is 20 mm long, greyish-white, with sparse hair-like setae on the body. Head is dark brown and there are two dark chitinous areas on the upper side of prothorax. Larvae web the grains together and also wander about leaving silken tunnels behind. Larval period is 30-40 days after which pupation takes place in the corners and crevices in a dull whitish cocoon. Pupa is pale brown in colour and pupal period is 10-12 days. Total duration of life cycle at 28 degrees and 70% humidity takes 45-55 days.

Distribution: Cosmopolitan in the tropical and warmer temperate areas of the world. In the temperate areas Ephestia kuhniella (the Mediterranean Flour Moth) replaces this species.